HANOI, April 10, 2004 (dpa) – A Vietnamese dissident and United Nations refugee who says he was kidnapped from Cambodia, forcibly repatriated and jailed in Vietnam will be allowed to leave the communist country, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees representative said Saturday.
We met him and his wife yesterday,” said Vu Anh Son, Vietnams UNHCR representative. Its sure he will be going for resettlement.”
Pham Van Tuong, and ex-monk from the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, was awarded U.N. refugee status in Cambodia in June 2002 for persecution he faced from Hanoi.
In July 2002 he was abducted by Cambodian security services who detained and beat him and turned him over to Vietnamese authorities just inside Vietnams border, the day after his abduction, he said in written statement submitted to the United Nations in Geneva late last week.
After his disappearance in July 2002, authorities in Vietnam repeatedly denied knowing Tuongs whereabouts.
Then, after holding him in Vietnamese jails for a year, Hanoi announced he was to face trial in Vietnam.
At a closed door trial in March 2004, Tuong was sentenced to 20 months in prison. He was released at the end of March because of time he had already served.
“While being interrogated and jailed, I repeatedly told them that I am a member of UBCV and my hope is to find freedom in a country which respect human rights so I can continue to work and serve the UBCV,” the ex-monk told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa Saturday from Ho Chi Minh City.
During the meeting between UNHCR representatives from Vietnam and Thailand, Tuong’s apparent abduction by Vietnamese security forces was not discussed, the Vietnam UNHCR representative said. “We didnt go into that part,” said Son, Vietnams UNHCR representative. “We got some information from him regarding his family status. To have confirmation of those details.”
“Although the ex-monk would like to resettle in the U.S., he may be going to Sweden according to the UNHCR representative. He is probably going to Sweden,” Son said. “Our office in Bangkok will process it early next week to see what we can to get him out as soon as possible.”
Tuong had hoped to go and resettle with his wife and children in the US, but was told at the UNHCR meeting that he will be going to Sweden.
“Only after I met UHCR representative yesterday did I know I would be able to go to Sweden. My hope is to settle down in US as I expressed in documents before, but suddenly, I was told to go to Sweden and I was surprised. Anyway, I am thinking about it,” the dissident said.
Tuong does not know if his wife and children will be allowed to go with him when he leaves Vietnam, he said.
The UBCV has been banned in Vietnam since 1981, and since then, its two elderly leaders have spent most of their time in prison, or under house arrest. Although Vietnam often states that there are no restrictions on religious freedom, the communist government closely supervises all religious groups.
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